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Henni Koyack: ‘Golf club membership has to evolve’

The Sky Sports Golf presenter, an ambassador for Underrated Golf, says clubs need to show flexibility if they want to boost membership

 

Golf club membership “has to evolve at some point” to become more of a family friendly space. That’s the view of Sky Sports Golf presenter Henni Koyack, who has urged clubs to be more flexible to meet the needs of everyone who might wish to play.

Speaking ahead of Underrated Golf’s first trip to Europe at Walton Heath at the end of this month, Koyack, who is an ambassador for the venture backed by NBA legend Stephen Curry, believes things are starting to change.

But while membership in England continues to increase, with latest figures showing 722,000 players are attached to clubs in the country, the numbers of women and girls remains stubbornly static – despite participation figures showing more are playing the game.

Asked what could be done to encourage more women and girls to make the leap, Koyack said: “My personal opinion is that golf club membership has to evolve at some point. In the past I’ve been quite vocal about golf clubs not being a welcoming space.

“It’s back to what I’ve said about children following mothers. Golf clubs have to be family friendly spaces. We’re all time poor and cash-strapped and golf and golf clubs are the opposite of that. You need four or five hours to play and it’s expensive. So I just think there needs to be some kind of flexibility there.

“Let’s say, for example, golf clubs offer summer only memberships and it’s a family friendly environment that you can bring kids and babies and teenagers.

“Now, I’m sure there will be people reading this that are horrified at that,” she said, before adding: “But, ultimately, if you really want the game to grow those are the things you have to do.”

She continued: “I think it’s a question of whether golf clubs can be flexible. I think a lot are starting to think that way.”

Koyack is opening a coaching room at Surrey’s Precision Golf at the end of this month – with a full sim-bay, TrackMan analysis, and an augmented reality experience – and said she had modelled her approach on ensuring everyone would feel comfortable and included in the room.  

“One thing that was really important to me was that it was a family friendly space,” she explained. “I was thinking to myself, ‘what times are we going to be available?’

“It’s making sure I have the space for kids toys and for people to come in and be coached and enjoy and feel comfortable in that environment.

“If you’re having that thought process, you have to have women in the room.”

Henni Koyack

Henni Koyack: ‘It’s marketing 101, isn’t it?’

Asked whether golf clubs need to adapt to meet the needs of women – particularly those who worked – Koyack continued: “100 per cent. It’s marketing 101, isn’t it? Who is our target audience, what time can they get here, when are they unavailable?

“Look, even at the weekend, with dads being more involved in the family dynamic now, why shouldn’t that be a family friendly environment? Of course that would make sense. There should be a kids’ room in every single golf club. You shouldn’t feel on edge if you bring a toddler into a golf space.”

She added: “There is this old-fashioned view that this is the time the old men used to get away from the old nagging wives and families.

“Ultimately, that has to end. Whether it is in this generation or the next, I think it will [change] at some point but it’s how it’s been since the game started so, of course, that can be clung onto and I get that.

“But I think slowly we are starting to see signs of people making a massive impact in that area.”

One venture that is trying to make a difference is Underrated Golf, whose new European venture arrives at Walton Heath from May 29 to 31.

It aims to promote opportunities for young athletes who might not otherwise get the chance to access golf.

A junior prodigy whose victories included the Welsh Ladies Stroke Play at just 15, Henni Koyack knows only too well the prodigious entry and ancillary costs that can stop talented young players from taking strides in the same, said she did not hesitate to get involved when approached.

“I think we all know, across the junior golf space for girls and boys, that for competitions the cost of that is insane,” she said,

“Underrated’s tour, from my point of view, is giving young people a genuine opportunity to show what they can do in the game and not just have that opportunity to compete but also the other ancillary opportunities on the back of that.

“That’s probably the most important part. I would encourage as many people to come down to Walton Heath and watch, or volunteer, as possible.”

Underrated provides training, equipment, networking events and is working hard to give female golfers the same chances as their male counterparts and Koyack added: “I’m just so proud when I approach people and talk about it because, without doubt, every time I mention what Underrated are doing, everyone is just floored and then it’s, ‘how can we get involved?’ I’m very proud to be involved.”

For more on Underrated Golf, visit their website. And click here to find out about Precision Golf.

  • This piece also appears in the GCMA’s monthly Insights newsletter that is packed with expert opinion on matters relating to golf club management. Sign up to Insights for FREE here.
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Now have your say

What do you think of what Henni Koyack has to say? Do golf clubs need to show more flexibility? How do we make it easier for working women to play the game? Let me know your thoughts with a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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